The little NANO. Made by TATA motors of India, is coming to America. It’s amazing how far India has come, and now joins the chorus line trying to grab a slice of the big USA automotive pie. It sells for the equivalent of about $2500 in India. It will be bulked up to meet American safety and emission control requirements, so the price will go up. Just how much is unsure. But it aims to be the lowest priced car in America.
It’s bubbly shape is somewhat like the early Volkswagen Beetle, or even more like the tiny Isetta two-seater from the late fifties, which had a motor scooter engine and single door which opened the entire front of the car. It will have a mountain of obstacles to overcome before receiving any public acceptance. The Indian community in America will probably give it a warm welcome.
It will be reliability and endurance under punishing American driving conditions that will make or break the NANO. It will probably go on sale in selected markets first, before nationwide distribution. Building a national dealer network will be a daunting task. But it’s timing may be right. Americans in the middle of a recession will be taking a close look at it, even if as a second car. And a lot of the college crowd may fall for it.
It’s nearest competitor will be the Smart Car, which is made by Mercedes Benz, and even with that prestige, it has not been a big success. Next are the smallest Korean offerings, the Hyundai Accent and the Kia Rio. They have both been around for years. If it’s interior dimensions are about a match with the Smart Car, and close to the Rio, while being priced lower than both, it could a surprise hit.
A few owners of the Nano have reported mysterious fires, which Tata Motors is trying to remedy. Sales of the Nano have been slow but the company is committed to it’s success. The low price of the car have not been the big draw the company projected, as more expensive competition is getting more sales in India.